What we thought we knew has been confirmed. The ALP is controlled by factions. The faction with the most power seems to be the NSW right. They turned over the leader as soon as his popularity started to dip. So far so good.
But factions are not all upside. If the ALP loses, a narrative will be constructed in which kicking out Kevin Rudd is the reason for the loss. The NSW right will be cast as villain of the piece. When the heart of your organisation is what’s rotten, you can’t just cut it off.
In the push and shove that will follow a loss, the ALP will tear itself apart. It’s a low probability, high-consequence event for Australian politics.
If it loses, we will hear a lot more about what happened this July. People will speak to the media. Confidences will be broken, backs will be stabbed. Mr Rudd will be interviewed incessantly. He might even write a book and call it ‘Boned‘.
It will not be like the Liberals picking Tony Abbott and losing. It will not be like the ALP sticking fatalistically with Kim Beazley and losing. It will not be like boldly picking Latham and losing. It will be a much bigger deal. A Tony Abbott victory may well incapacitate Labor for quite a long time. Not only will they have burned through two good leaders in one term, but the fighting will burn out a whole lot of future leaders.
We will learn a lot more about the circumstance under which Faulkner and Tanner decided to step down. We will hear a lot of bad things about Mark Arbib. People will quit. People will have their dirty laundry aired. Leaders will be elected and step down. If Swan becomes leader it won’t be for long. They might go back to Rudd for a while. Or Malcolm Turnbull might start a new party and get half the ALP to join.
If the Liberal Party thinks it has a chance it should mortgage the farm to put more ads on, distribute more pamphlets, pay candidates bonuses, do whatever it takes, because a victory here will really incapacitate their opponent.